After years of pushing e-commerce sites to be more mobile friendly, Google is now pushing retailers to make their Android apps more search friendly as well, according to a post on the company’s blog for webmasters.
To do that, app developers will have to create indexes that will let both Google’s search engine and users themselves go directly to specific locations within an app – what in a website would be called “deep linking.” That way, content from an app that’s installed on an Android device will show up in Google searches done on that device. App indexes use URL-like addresses for the content.
The new search ranking policy expands on other Google efforts such as letting users make reservations at restaurants they find via Google Maps. In that case, Maps results link into the OpenTable app for making the actual reservations.
Fully indexed Android apps will get much higher search placement than apps with no indexing. “We will begin to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed,” wrote Google’s Takaki Makino, Chaesang Jung and Doantam Phan in the blog post, adding that Google “may now surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.”
Translated from Googlespeak, that means if an Android user is signed into Google, search results will include indexed content from apps on the user’s device – and they’ll get higher placement than simple Web search results. Users will also be able to click on the search result link and automatically open the app to the appropriate screen.
Although Google didn’t explain why users must be logged in, it’s likely because that’s how the search giant can tell what apps are on the user’s device. That’s also the most likely reason there’s no support for iOS devices with the new app-indexing, since Apple will definitely give Google that kind of access to what’s on its users’ devices.
While app indexing isn’t new – Google first unveiled it in 2013 – and Google provides tools to do the work, it’s definitely a job for developers because the indexing process requires access to an app’s internals, which is not trivial.
A cheaper workaround for retailers to get at least some benefit from Google’s new rankings is to create an app index that points to just the starting page of an app, so users can get into the app from the search results, Pure Oxygen Labs CEO Brian Klais told Internet Retailer, adding, “Retailers with limited resources then can monitor what happens to Android app engagement levels and the business case likely will make itself to invest further in deep link support and app indexation.”